Setting up a business starts with a good business model
The next participant for our ´´Barcelona Personalities´´ section is Timo Bütefisch, a German expat. Our interview takes place at the head offices of Cooltra Motos, the scooter rental company where Timo Bütefisch is the CEO. We had an in depth interview with Timo Bütefisch and asked him about living and doing business in Barcelona, the success of his business and entrepreneurship in general.
Barcelona´s scooter scene If you have been in Barcelona before you probably have noticed the many scooters that are occupying the city´ street scene. Timo Bütefisch definitely noticed while he was doing an MBA at the IESE business school. He saw an opportunity of turning the high penetration rate of scooters in combination with the many tourists into a business. By the time that Cooltra was founded in 2006 there was little competition and Timo Bütefisch´ vision was to create a really professional company that offers a high quality product. The intention was to offer the product mainly in Southern Europe, and after the first establishment in Barcelona other locations in Greece and Italy followed.
The business has two different business area´s one is the short term rental for tourists that rent on a day or weekly basis and there is also the area of monthly rentals by residents. When talking about the rentals by residents the comparison with a purchase arise immediately but Timo Bütefisch didn’t see this as a barrier. ´´First of all the market is really big, there are more than 300.000 scooters in Barcelona and besides that we are not talking about getting them all, we are just aiming at a small part´´. The opportunities lie with the people that are not 100% sure how long they are going to stay in Barcelona, people that are here for a job for example and instead of investing in a vehicle they rather pay on a monthly basis.
Entrepreneur friendly city It seems like everything went entirely according to plan but there have been some challenges as well according to Timo Bütefisch. ´´ I personally didn’t have a lot of money and I had to find people that trusted me and were able to give me the money in return for shares in the company´´. Other challenges came down to the actual set up of the business in terms of finding a shop, insurance provider and purchasing the scooters. Even though there have been some challenges Bütefisch thinks Barcelona is a very entrepreneur friendly city however speaking Spanish is definitely recommended. Timo Bütefisch learned his Spanish years ago when spending time in Argentina for school.
Talking about other countries and international minded people we automatically come down to the conversation of the differences between the business cultures. Originally from Germany, Timo Bütefisch sensed cultural differences while doing business that were less common in Spain such as responsibility, punctuality or taking ownership of things. Albeit there are differences it wasn’t hard to adapt as ´´ I am working in a very international environment, my employees are from 20 countries and my clients are from 45 countries, plus we buy scooters in China´´ he says. Could it be even more international? Do you consider speaking three to four different languages every day international? Than yes, it can be even more international!
Barcelona is the ideal place for the headquarters of Cooltra as the headquarters provide a lot of business and there are a lot of tourists. The other shops at the Balearic Islands are very close and have good flight connections besides that Barcelona offers access to a lot of international staff, there are a lot of people who want to live abroad and would like to work for an international company like Cooltra. Expansion strategy Cooltra´s business decisions are influenced by a number of factors, such as the fact that the company is dependent on tourism, fuel prices, government subsidies and the positive influences of people wanting to rent instead of buying, the ability to get better shops and better personnel. It seems like the business decisions that are taken are paying off as the company grew by 30% last year whereas the Spanish market grew with about 1%. For their expansion strategy there are a number of big projects they invested in such as 500 electric scooters, opening a new establishment in Madrid and thirdly integrating more international partners into the booking platform whereby Cooltra operates as an aggregator.
They have tried the franchise concept but according to Timo they should wait a little bit until the brand is even stronger. ´´ We could do it probably now but at the end, you as an entrepreneur decide what growth path you want. If you want absolute exponential growth or want to grow in a rapid way but structured, you cannot do it all. Franchise could be a topic for next year.´´
I would like to thank Timo Bütefisch for his participation, his practical explanations and his clearly given advice and vision on the important things of setting up a business.
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